When the client proposed the idea, it was supposed to be a simple, 5 second intro for a toy commercial. The action opens on a shark swimming towards the camera. Jaws open wide. Right before he devours the screen a red cage engulfs him. Then it would cut to a live action toy shark being pulled out of the water.
The piece was short and simple. It seemed like a perfect moment to use stop motion animation! I love directing stop motion. It consumes me and is a really enjoyable process. I pulled out the crumply sketch paper and began figuring out the wire skeleton for the shark puppet. I built miniature models to test the tail and was experimenting on how to achieve practical caustics. These are all things that make stop motion so much fun - the problem solving.
The storyboards were simple and I was busy away figuring out the technical details. The client on the other hand was a little uneasy with the look and timing of the animation. We've only shown them rough storyboards. I didn't have much time before a phone meeting and I started getting nervous they weren't sold on the stop motion idea. I quickly animated a animatic to give the look and tone of the animation. We were thinking about using pieces of metal or ear rings for the small fish because we didn't want any other toy conflicting with the shark (legal stuff). Here's what I whipped together:
I know the bubbles are hideous, but quality had to suffer for the sake of speed. Thankfully it worked! The client was really happy, they took it to their meeting and everything was signed off on.
And then, like with every project, a wrench was thrown in. The client was so happy they wanted even more animation! The idea completely changed to a complex, 4 shot scene. The new scene included the toy playset as well. The action is of the shark inside of a water filled elevator. The elevator is falling down a shaft with a car driving in circles around the shaft. The shark bursts out of the elevator and eats the car.
Sadly, the new action was too much for a stop motion budget. The idea had to be abandoned. But! Adaptability is the name of the game. Just in case of this scenario, the shark was already being modeled in the computer for 3D animation.
Since this was the first project I was leading, I had the control to do dailies. I literally had a cut of the shark to show every morning in the studio. Everyone gave feedback, things I would never have thought of. Besides the fact I was working with such talented people executing their jobs to the best of their abilities, it was their input and ideas in the dailies that allowed us to keep packing in more and more to the scene.
I've talked it up way to much and it most likely won't seem impressive now, but I am proud of this one.